This morning I was listening to an episode of a daily podcast (Focused as Fuck by Zach Valenti, yes I know I’m such a fangirl), where there was a discussion between him and a friend of his about the concept of binging. And even though I’d listened to it before actually having coffee or anything to eat, it got me thinking about my own habits when it comes to binging.
I started examining what I’d done in the past, what I’d binged and how. And to be honest, I don’t binge TV shows that much. I don’t have Netflix at the moment – being unemployed I don’t want to throw away money on something I don’t have to have – and in general I don’t watch much TV at all. There are a few shows that I follow (massive Casualty and Holby City fan, as uncool as that may be), but that’s on a weekly basis. Yes, there have been a couple of US shows that I have watched over the course of a few weeks or months during the last couple of years to get up to date; but it wasn’t necessarily what people might define as binging. I didn’t stay up all night to finish a season of a certain show, but I would spend a Saturday afternoon watching something – which I then might not watch at all during the week, or just maybe an episode a day. So when it comes to TV I’m fairly controlled about the amount of time I spend watching shows, or at least I’d like to think so. Honestly, I start getting distracted if I watch too much of the same thing for hours on end, unfortunately that’s how my attention span has become over the years. I have to be doing something at the same time as watching a show, like making jewellery. Which brings us nicely to…
The shenanigans of the past month or so. At the beginning of the year I’d decided that I’d get into podcasts, don’t ask me why, I just think they seemed interesting to me. The only experience I’d had with podcasts were language learning ones, I’d never listened to any audio dramas. But right now, I’m obsessed. Towards the beginning of April I decided that I’d finally sit down and start listening to all these podcasts I’d subscribed to at the beginning of the year (off the back of a BuzzFeed article, if I remember correctly), to give me something to listen to while I made jewellery; instead of constantly flicking from radio station to radio station trying to find something interesting to listen to. And the first one I got into was an audio drama called Wolf 359 (which is how I found Zach the voice actor, the source of my recent inspiration – he plays two of the characters). I listened to 46 episodes (ranging from about 15-20 minutes in length for the earlier ones, to later episodes which last roughly between 35-40 minutes) in about 2 weeks, which again isn’t that short a time-span. It was a conscious decision on my part, because I could’ve sat down and listened to it all day every day, but I had other things I needed to do. Like actually looking for a job which requires my full concentration, and learning Polish (which I’ve been doing since August last year). But it very much feels like something I’ve been completely immersed in recently. And being a new media for me, there’s a certain degree of novelty to it, which is possibly one of the reasons why I’ve become so taken with it – it’s something brand new. I think just from reading this you can tell just how much I love it. Without giving too much away, it’s an audio drama set on a space station in deep space which orbits around the dwarf star Wolf 359. It’s not necessarily as sci-fi as it might sound, as a lot of it focuses on the characters and how they interact with each other. And through recommendations from the people behind that show, and the fans who love it, I’ve also got into other podcasts such as The Bright Sessions and ars PARADOXICA, and now I have a ridiculously long list of episodes of about a dozen podcasts of different genres to get through. But again, not really binging. I usually listen to three episodes a day of a certain podcast, considering they’re about 20-30 minutes long each, it’s rarely more.
With this, I’ve spent less time reading recently, because my mind’s been like, ‘omg let’s listen to the next episode of [insert podcast name here] because I HAVE to find out what happens next!’. So instead of spending a couple of hours in the afternoon reading, I’ve been spending that time listening to audio dramas. My way of getting out of this mostly self-inflicted slump is by re-reading some of my favourite books, which I’ve recently acquired in paperback for the first time thanks to the Free Books store in my town. In the episode I listened to this morning, the discussion about binging also covered books, which is something I hadn’t thought about before. Even though I very much classify myself as a huge bookworm, the amount of times I’ve stayed up late reading something is very rare. Out of self-control more than anything, I think. I need a lot of sleep. I did stay up until about 1am a couple of months or so ago, actually re-reading a book (Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill, which is an incredible book). But yes, there have been times in the past where I’ve read an entire book in one sitting (Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is the best example of one that’s stuck in my mind), but I’ve never thought of that as binging. To me, it’s just reading a book. And when it’s a particularly good book, I just want to get through it to see what happens. But reading a series of books one after another, yes. Like when I read all of the books which have so far been published in the A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka the Game of Thrones books) in about six months, something like 5200 pages altogether. Which still isn’t that impressive for me, because I didn’t read as much back then as I did in the following year or two. But that very much felt like binging. Once I’d finish one book, I’d pick up the next – as you would do with a TV show on Netflix.
It was an interesting discussion that I heard this morning, and they also raised the question about just how much stuff we as a society are consuming now. We’re in a golden age of TV, where the stakes have been raised time and time again; and when shows were once limited to a local audience they are now being targeted at millions of viewers all over the world. With Netflix and Amazon Prime and all the other on-demand services there are out there – even TV channels and their own catch-up systems (which is still a novelty to me) – you don’t even need to be sitting in front of an actual TV set to be watching them. You could be on a bus or a train, sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s surgery, or in a coffee shop. The medium of television has become much more accessible now, and you could say the same thing about books too with the advent of ebooks. Everything’s become mobile, it follows you around, you’re constantly able to access TV shows and films and books and podcasts and everything else, wherever you are, whenever you are. TV shows aren’t lost forever once they’ve been broadcast, as they used to be back in the day. And to me, this is something that’s new to a certain extent. I didn’t want to watch Italian TV, and Netflix came to Italy much later, and with a more limited selection of shows. Whereas in the UK, TV is accessible in a way that it just wasn’t in a non-anglophone country. But even so, I haven’t started watching a load of stuff on TV since being back here. I think I’ve just lost the habit after years of terrible Italian television. So, my binging really lies elsewhere, and at the moment, it’s very much in the wonderful world of podcasts.